Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay, here's my question: where's the money?

The accepted number has it that Jack Abramoff collected more than $80 million in fees from his Indian gambling clients. And, remember, those weren't his only clients.

Take the example of Abramoff's work for Tyco, handled by the company's counsel Timothy Flanigan.

Abramoff had Tyco pay 'Grassroots Interactive' $2 million for doing various astroturf bamboozlement on their behalf. But a subsequent investigation found that $1.5 million of that money was "diverted to entities controlled by Mr. Abramoff" and spent on other things. (This is sort of like being defrauded out of your rightful fraud.) That's a decent amount of money. Where is it?

Abramoff has been telling friends and, at least indirectly, reporters for some time that he's close to broke. And I've seen at least some evidence that suggests that that is either true or that he is, as the finance types says, very illiquid.

You only have to look at the stories of Abramoff's lifestyle and various projects to know he was probably burning through lots of money in his glory days. But I don't think that quite explains it. The sums coming in are just too big.

We keep hearing of pretty sizeable sums of money that disappeared into this or that Abramoff-controlled entity. Where did it all go?

I think that's where the story is.

Those really were the days, weren't they?

That's Ralph Reed at the DC Grand Opening of Century Strategies, his political consulting firm. The date is June 24th, 2003. And those were, of course, the salad days.

That's Ralph in the center. Jack Abramoff is there on the right. And we're pretty certain that the woman on the left is Susan Ralston, Abramoff's former executive assistant who, at the time this photo was taken, was executive assistant to Karl Rove.

Compare the photo with this photo of Ralston.
We report; you decide. You know the drill.

Coming later: a picture of Jack and W?

A bit earlier we told you how one of Rep. Bill Jefferson's (D-LA) former staffers, Brett Pfeffer, is pleading guilty today to charges of bribing public officials in a federal court in Northern, Virginia. One of our favorite TPM Readers sends us in this note ...

Josh-- Brett Pfeffer was president of MorganFranklin Corp., whose clients include the Executive Office of the President and DoD, among others.

Among their projects have been the IT infrastructure for Bush's 2d inaugural and technical support to the 2004 G8 Summit hosted by Bush last year.

Also worth noting that MorganFranklin's lobbyists are a couple of Republicans from Dutko.

Can't tell yet when Pfeffer's gig there ended. I'll keep you posted.

We'll keep you posted too.

Another thought on the DeLay Rule, the rule passed just after the 2004 election designed to allow Tom DeLay to stay on as Majority Leader even after he was indicted for a felony. Most members of the House GOP Caucus voted for it back then. Do they stand by it now? If constituents call, how are they saying they voted?

Last night we noted that Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) is now the House Republican point man on ethics and 'lobbying reform'. A year ago, he was a big supporter of the DeLay Rule. I wonder what he's saying now. Does he remember how he voted?

If you ring up your member of Congress and ask them point blank how they voted on the 'DeLay Rule', they may not remember what you're talking about. Technically, this is the change to the rules of the House Republican Conference, passed in November 2004, which allowed then-Majority Leader DeLay to remain as Majority Leader even if he was indicted. So if you call just be courteous and clear and explain that you feel you're entitled to an answer.

What is your Republican member of Congress saying today?

If you hear anything, drop us a line, let us know what you hear.

If Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) didn't exist, Republicans would have to invent him. And yet, well ... Jefferson, you'll remember, is the congressman from New Orleans whose name popped up late last summer in his own public corruption scandal.

One of his former aides, Brett Pfeffer, is expected to plead guilty today at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria to charges of bribing an unnamed public official.

You've got to figure that's not good news for Rep. Jefferson.

As long as we're talking about the DeLay Rule again (see below), I thought it might be illuminating to scan through some of the day's newspaper articles and see where people now stand.

Wednesday's Post quotes Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA) saying: "We will want people who are clean running the House." She's supporting John Boehner (R-OH), who is being held out as the clean candidate in comparison to acting-Majority Leader and one-time DeLay protege Roy Blunt (R-MO). And it's certainly an admirable sentiment.

But a year ago she was a vocal supporter of the DeLay Rule which was designed to let DeLay, then the Majority Leader, remain in his post even after he was indicted. Members of her staff told TPM Readers who contacted her office that she voted in favor of the Rule. In other words, she wanted to change the rules so that someone who was dirty could keep running the House.

In fact, DeLay had so much confidence in Hart that after he purged the Ethics Committee in early 2005 (see 'night of the long gavels') she was one of the loyalists he put on the committee. Indeed, while DeLay was still in the driver's seat enough to be calling the shots, Hart was tapped to lead the Majority-approved investigation of DeLay.

How much do you think DeLay thought Hart had his back?

How times have changed.

Ahhh, The DeLay Rule, truly the muckraker's gift that keeps on giving. The DeLay Rule was the rule House Republicans passed in mid-November 2004 to allow Tom DeLay to stay in charge of the House of Representatives even after he was indicted. The vote itself and the subsequent, slow erosion of support for it turned out to be a good proxy for who in the GOP caucus was a down-the-line DeLay man or woman, wiling to bend pretty much any rule to cover for DeLay and his House machine.

Moderates like Chris Shays were perhaps the most prominent and vocal in their opposition to the Rule. But what opposition there was stretched across ideological lines in the caucus, pulling in a number of the more conservative members. At least conservatives of a certain turn.

So today a friend points out to me that Speaker Denny Hastert has tapped California Rep. David Dreier (R) as his ethics czar, the one who's going to clean the place up and start cranking on a 'lobbying reform' bill.

So where did Dreier come down on The DeLay Rule?

As you'd expect, pretty much a down-the-line DeLay Rule man.

Here's a copy of the letter he sent constituents over a year ago defending his vote.

Why was the DeLay Rule necessary? Because "it became apparent that by simply bringing an indictment in any court, a local political operative could remove a Congressional leader at a key or sensitive time by bringing an indictment against him or her for political purposes ... The rule change was a necessary step needed to remove an incentive for a partisan prosecutor to make a frivolous or baseless accusation against a Member of the House."

So now Dreier is the guy to crack down on law-breaking. But a year ago his agenda was cracking down on prosecutors.

Okay, maybe there are some taste issues. But I broke out laughing when I saw this.